Introduction:As the title puts it, thepresent study seeks to analyse the political orientations or leanings of two leading Indian English dailies, ‘TheTimes of India’ and ‘The Hindu’, in terms of circulation, The study looks into how these two dailies exhibit their politicalorientations/leanings while reporting on Parliament and its business..More precisely, the present research also aims to study how Parliament, thehighest law-making authority of the country, politicians, parties and policieswere framed during the Monsoon Session held from 17 July 2017 to 11 August2017.
Media plays an importantrole in a democratic setup, though the nature and scope of its role has alwaysbeen debated. In a country like India, which is the world’s largest democracywith a strong presence and evolution of both traditional and the new media, thewatchdog function of the media plays an important role in strengtheningdemocracy. The more people get educated and informed, the strength and substanceof the media increase. Media plays an important role in the dissemination ofinformation and acts as a key information resource for the common folk. Democracy does not and cannot survive withoutdiscourse and discourse effectively takes place mainly through journalism.Parliaments have the ‘right to be reported’ because people have the right andthe urge to know what is happening in Parliament and government.
Thepress helps people and politicians grasp and understand social, economic,political and cultural issues of the country. Press is sometimes controlled bythe governments/state. However, often, the press has the power to control andkeep a check on the government(s). The press’s responsibility is to hold thepowers that be to account and assess, critique and even expose politicians,political parties and policies to make the society we live in a better place. One of the chief authorsof the American Declaration of Independence, who also served as the thirdPresident of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, wrote in a letterto the Edward Carrington, an American statesmen that “Were it left to me todecide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspaperswithout a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter” (as quotedin Divan, 2006, p.1). This is the strength and power of the press. Britishpolitician, historian and jurist James Bryce once said that the press was a”watch dog whose bark must be tolerated, even when the person who approacheshas no bad intentU1 .
“Boththe right and left wings of the political spectrum recognise politics andpolitical news as most important facets of news. This is because politiciansare the law makers and rule us. Hence most of the news output is directly orindirectly related to politics. This way, press plays what is famously termedas the watch dog role in monitoring and keeping check of the conduct of thegovernment, and thereby politicians and government officials.Does the media have abigger role to play in a democratic set-up like India than just disseminatinginformation and providing news and views and entertaining people? There are two elements asfar as reporting Parliament is concerned.
One is the right of the citizens tobe informed, and the other is the right to freedom of speech and expressionwhich is exercised by the media. These two go hand in hand for the greatercommon good of all. Parliament and parliamentariansalways expect the media to be objective, fair, balanced and unbiased whilereporting on Parliament or while writing about it. Parliament also has theright and the privilege to impose restrictions on the media on matters thatmight seem to be as misinterpretation. This provision is discussed in thelatter part of the introduction.
However the question is,can the media be completely objective and unbiased while not only reporting orwriting about Parliament, but in general. Is it not too ideal and tooimpractical to expect?Thequestion of the press being objective and factual is debatable. Can the pressbe objective and should the press be objective is also the question that demandsanswer. The press being free from politics is impossible, but can it be freefrom political orientations or leanings? Can it be objective and unbiased asfar as politics of the press as an institution or organisation is consideredand concerned ? Onthe one hand, being factual is greatly demanded of the media. On the otherhand, the question is what do those so-called facts mean?. Time and again, ithas been decisively proved that media, against facts, tends to be politically oriented.Media not only is oriented politically to a certain ideology, it sets an agendato the readers as well. AsBernard Cohen famously pointed out in his book The Press and Foreign Policy (1963): Thepress is significantly more than a purveyor of information and opinion… It thepress may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think,but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.
Andit follows from this that the world looks different to different people,depending not only on their personal interests, but also on the map that isdrawn for them by writers, editors, and publishers of the papers they read.(p.13). The question is: How does press set an agendafor its readers on what to think about and then, further, on how to think aboutwhat they have been asked to think about.
Itis evident that theright and left wings U2 ofthe political spectrum have dominated not only the orientations of the pressbut the thinking and understanding of of readers on various issues. The press notonly collects facts for us but it puts it in a certain way. Niven(2003), proves in his paper that throughout history, the press has been politicallyoriented and demonstrates what he calls ‘media bias’ towards a certainpolitical ideology.
Media bias has always existed and will always exist. Beingcompletely objective is a myth and is also a dangerous myth. . AsShowmaker & Reese (1996, p. 21.) point out in their paper,”News is asocially created product, not a reflection of an objective reality” (as citedin Majid & Ramaprasad, 1998, p.132.
). Thecontent and structure of political news has been a subject of intense study byacademicians, media scholars and political scientists (see, for example, Niven,2009; McCombs & Ghanem, 2001; Weaver, 2007; Guzman, 2016, etc.)It is very necessary tobe aware of the rights and freedom of the media hereafter, the word media will besubstituted with the word press for the purpose of the study whenevernecessary U3 inthe country, political background, Parliamentary business, relationship betweenmedia and Parliament, privileges enjoyed by the press in Parliament and finallythe privileges of the parliamentarians as we move into the study. Anoverview of the Parliament of India: Parliament of Indiaoccupies a very important position in the constitutional set-up of the country.
It represents 1.25 billion people of this country and it is the place fromwhere we are ruled. It is the same place where our problems and aspirations areidentified and rectified and solutions sought and implemented.
Hence, Parliamentis considered the face of democracy and is often hailed as the temple ofdemocracy. It is also regarded as the epicentre of polity, politics and publicinstitutions as it is the legislative organ of the Union government. In India, we have what iscalled the bi-cameral system which consists of two Houses. The Upper House is the Council ofStates (Rajya Sabha), and the Lower House is the House of the People (Lok Sabha).Parliament of India consists of the President of India, Rajya Sabha and the LokSabha. Rajya Sabha consists of250 members, indirectly elected.
Out of 250 members, 12 members are nominatedby the President of India. Lok Sabha consists of not more than 552representatives directly chosen by the people.Generally, the Parliamentmeets three times in a year for three sessions (apart from special sessions), andthey are:1) Budget Session (split into two sessions)held anytime between February-May2) Monsoon Session held anytime between Julyand August3) Winter Session held anytime betweenNovember and December Functionsof the Parliament: There are many importantfunctions of the Parliament of India, and the most important among them are asfollows: Functions of legislation,surveillance of administration, presenting and passing of the budget, politicaland financial control, law making, national integration, conflict resolution,discussion of national policies, amending the Constitution, and identificationand solution of public grievances, etc. MediaLaws, Rights, Restrictions and Privileges: The Preamble of theConstitution of India along with Fundamental Rights is regarded as the ‘Basic Structure’of the Indian Constitution (which cannot be amended) declares: WHEREINshall be granted and secured to all the people of India justice, social,economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law;freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association,and action, subject to law and public morality; and….
.(as qouted in Basu, 2015,p.20).However, as Divan (2006),has said in her book, Dr. B.R.
Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee ofthe Constitution in one of the Constituent Assembly Debates had opined that the press wasmerely another way of stating an individualU4 and those whose chose to write in the newspapers exercise their own right offreedom of speech and expression which is already guaranteed to them and hencethe Press should not be given any extra rights other citizens do notenjoy. Hence, Constitution ofIndia has not given the Press any special rights. The press derives its rightto the Freedom of Speech and Expressions from Article 19(1) (a) of theFundamental Rights which is guaranteed to every citizen of the country. Article19(1) (a) reads as follows: “19. (1)All citizens shall have the right (a) to freedom of speech of expression;….
.”(as quoted in Divan, 2006, p.2). Also, freedom of speechand expression in India is not absolute and is subject to certain ‘reasonablerestrictions’ under Article 19 (2), though the word ‘reasonable’ has not beenexactly defined. Clause (2) of Article 19 i.
e. 19 (2) which was amended in 1951allows the legislature to impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ on freedom of speechand expressions under certain grounds and interests. Restrictions to Article19(1) (a) which is incorporated in Article 19(2) reads as: Nothingin sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law,or prevent the state from making any law, insofar as such law imposesreasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the sidesub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, thesecurity of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order,decency and morality, or in relation contempt of court, defamation, orincitement to an offence. (as quoted in Basu, 2015, p.
111). Nonetheless, it is notlegitimate on the part of the state to narrow the scale and scope ofcirculation and dissemination of information and to impose laws or huge taxesto indirectly curtail information. The freedom of speech and expression also includesthe liberty and the right to collect and/or receive information, to print,publish, broadcast, circulate, etc., through any means of communication, rightto express beyond national boundaries, right to report court proceedings andlegislative sessions. To put it in a simple way, the press has the right toassimilation and dissemination of news, views, and information through anymeans of communication.
The Supreme Court ofIndia in multiple cases like Sakal Papers v/s Union of India, Brij Bhushan v/sState of Delhi, Bennett Coleman & Co v/s Union of India, Indian Express v/sUnion of India, LIC v/s Manubhai Shah, etc. cases timeand again has clearly hailed the facets of free speech and expressions. Also Articles 14, 19 and21 are popularly called as ‘Golden Triangle’ of the Constitution. Thesejudgements privilege the press to have more access to information and hence, ina certain sense, it has more rights than the common folk. The enormous powerthe press possesses is in itself a very big responsivity, obligation and anadvantage.
Parliamentand the Press: Press is often regardedas the fourth estate, along with the legislature, executive, and judiciary,which has significant influence on society. The term ‘Fourth Estate’ isattributed to the great Irish political theorist, statesman and philosopherEdmund Burke. He is said to have coinedthe term the ‘Fourth Estate’ when he saw the press sitting in the galleries inthe British Parliament for the first time watching the three estates, theKings, Clergies and the Commons.The Fourth Estate alsorefers to the watchdog function of the press which checks the abuse of powerand to hold the ‘power to account’. Hence, press is one of the most importantpillars of democracy. In India, press is considered as the Fourth Estate alongwith legislature, executive and judiciary.
Government and the peoplecommunicate with each other through the media, especially through press. Pressplays two important roles, one as ‘information industry’ and the second one as’opinion formulator’. Hence, press must be highly responsible to stay effectiveand reliable. The educative and dissemination of information role of the presshelps in exposing and identifying the weaknesses of democracy. This helps inrectifying the problems and making democracy more robust and pro-people. It isextremely vital for any democracy to keep the general public informed how andwhy Parliament functions. However, the procedures and practices of Parliamentare a bit too complicated for a common man to understand and comprehend.
Population penetration ofnewspapers is generally very high compared to other forms of media and hencethe electorate of the country reads what happens in Parliament mainly throughnewspapers. According to the website of the Parliament of India, “Press isoften regarded as the extension of the Parliament”. Much of the raw materialsfor asking questions, debates, motions, in Parliament comes from the press. Parliamentariansrely on the reports, news, views of the press. At the same time, the pressdisseminates information regarding Parliament and functions and procedures of Parliamentby informing the people about it (Kashyap, 2015). These two-way, mutuallycomplimentary, mutually beneficial factors helps to connect Parliament and thepeople of the country. Hence, press is the bridge between the people and Parliament.
Press enjoys certainprivileges in Parliament while reporting on it business. These privileges,freedom and rights of the press in Parliament come along with certainobligations and responsibilities. The website of the Parliament of Indiaclearly states that “There can be no freedom of the Press at the cost ofprivileges of Parliament”. Parliament has the powerto impose restrictions on reporting from both the houses of Parliament iftheirproceedings are reported or being written with mala fide intentions and/or ifthe interpretations or writings or reports are grossly misinterpreted andanything taken out of context and written about. Also, the press is supposed U5 topublish matters that are before the parliamentary committees which have notbeen tabled in the houses. Press will be kept out of the houses in-case thereis a secret sitting of the houses and the press shall not disclose the informationuntil and unless the secrecy is lifted. Privilegesof Press in Parliament:In order to facilitatethe press in Parliament the ‘Press and Public Relations Wing,’ a unit underParliament ‘Library And Reference, Research, Documentation and InformationService’ (LARRDIS) was formed in 1956.
They work closely both with theparliamentarians and the press. LARRDIS collects all the important news andinformation from 9 Hindi and 18 English newspapers and documents itchronologically, subject wise. This information is extensively used by theparliamentarians. Apart from documentation and research work, LARRDISfacilitates the press to cover the day-to-day proceedings of both the houses ofParliament. LARRDIS is also the bridge between various other parliamentaryorganizations, associations, committees and the press. They also inform thepress regarding other activities of the Parliament.
There are three roomsallotted for the press during parliamentary sessions. Fax, photo copy andinternet facilities are given for the media personnel free of cost. There alsois a separate station in the library building of the Lok Sabha for the presspersonnel with ten computer and internet and phone connection facilities tofile their stories. The simultaneous interpretation facility of the sessions isalso available for the media personnel. The press gallery in theLok Sabha has 120 seats. A committee called The Press Advisory, which has 21members from the press fraternity, nominated by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha,attends to the concerns of the press in Parliament. Privilegesof the Parliament and Parliamentarians:Journalists should bevery careful in reporting on Parliament as the parliamentarians have certainprivileges which are sensitive. While reporting, press might consciously or unconsciously go beyondtheir rights and intrude into their privileges which often leads to tusslesbetween the privileges of the parliamentarians and the press.
The right tofreedom of speech and expression is brought into picture here which makes thecase complex. Article 105 and 194 ofthe Constitution deals with the privileges and powers of the parliamentariansand Parliament. These privileges, powers and immunities are given to theparliamentarians to enable them to perform their duty effectively. There are two kinds ofprivileges enjoyed by the parliamentarians, individual and collectiveprivileges. Collective privileges of the parliamentarians are worth mentioningunder the present dissertation topic, they are:ThePrivileges of the House collectivelyare- (1) The right to publish debates and the proceedings and the right torestrain publication by others; (2) The right to exclude others; (3) The rightto regulate the internal affairs of the House, and to decide matters arisingwithin its walls; (4) The right to publish Parliamentary misbehaviour; (5) Theright to punish members and outsiders for breach of its privileges. ( As citedin Basu, 2015, p.
237). The above law clearlystates that the parliamentarians have the right to restrain the publication ofproceedings by others which also includes journalists, the right to excludeothers and others here include journalists, and to punish outsiders for thebreach of their privileges. Journalists reporting Parliament must keep theseissues in mind and then report. Parliament reporting needs expertise withsufficient legal knowledge of the general law and of parliamentary laws andprocedures. U1Sourceorginal U2Whatabout Centrists? U3Whydon’t you do this right from the start? U4Somethingodd here?? U5Supposedor not supposed?